Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza – South Florida Jazz Orchestra, Directed by Chuck Bergeron
During 15 years of SFJO, the band has released four albums of original music and presented many great artists in concert; including Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, Wycliffe Gordon, Kevin Mahogany, Tom Scott, and the legendary Ira Sullivan. Here they welcome Brian Lynch & John Hart on a program of original, accessible – well written music from the incredibly experienced & talented Rick Margitza!
All music composed and arranged by Rick Margitza except Widows Walk and Embraceable You, arranged by Dan Gailey
Saxophones: Gary Keller, Gary Lindsay, Ed Calle, Jason Kush, Mike Brignola
Trumpets: Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas, Jason Carder, Jesus Mato, Alex Norris, Jared Hall, Pete Francis, John Daversa
Trombones: Dante Luciani, John Kricker, Andrew Peal, Major Bailey, John Fedchock
Rhythm Section: Martin Bejerano – piano, John Hart – guitar, Chuck Bergeron – acoustic and electric bass, John Yarling – drums
Additional Players: Brian Lynch – featured soloist, David Leon – bari sax and bass clarinet, Derek Pyle – trombone, Xavier Desandre Navarre – percussion
Tenor saxophonist and Miles Davis alumnus Rick Margitza is the star of the fourth recording from bassist-educator Chuck Bergeron’s South Florida Jazz Orchestra, a powerhouse ensemble consisting of top players from Miami’s jazz scene. The crackerjack group does a bang-up job performing big-band adaptations of eight Margitza originals and one standard (“Embraceable You”) in this thrilling celebration of their honored guest, who blows on all nine tracks.
The compositions chosen for Cheap Thrills span Margitza’s career, dating back to “Widow’s Walk,” a radio-friendly tune from the 1989 compilation New Stars On Blue Note that included Bergeron in the rhythm section; “Brace Yourself,” a Latin cooker originally recorded on Margitza’s Blue Note debut Color, also from 1989; and the swinger “Walls,” which first appeared on the saxophonist’s early-’90s album Hope. More recent fare includes the extended composition “Premonition,” an ambitious piece colored with a full palette of woodwind timbres, and the propulsive, brass-powered title track. Margitza, who did seven of the nine arrangements here, has substantial big band experience—including stints with Maynard Ferguson and Maria Schneider’s orchestras—and sounds particularly inspired in the large ensemble context. He sounds better than ever on tenor, with a consistently strong, bright sound in the horn’s natural registers and a crystal-clear, extended altissimo range with lead-trumpet power. The presence of several ringers—including trumpeters Bryan Lynch and John Daversa, guitarist John Hart, percussionist Xavier Desandre Navarre, trombonist/co-producer John Fedchock and baritone saxophonist/bass clarinetist David Leon—raises this already tight ensemble’s game to new levels of exceptionalism and excitement.
Margitza and Bergeron are old friends who spent time making music together in New Orleans and New York, as well as studying at Frost School of Music, where the leader and many of his band members are currently on faculty. Cheap Thrills is a testament to the strength and longevity of their musical connection.
-Ed Enright for DOWNBEAT
“…Cheap Thrills is a tribute to saxophonist Margitza, who has collaborated with legends like Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Maynard Ferguson and Chick Corea. The Detroit area native studied in South Florida before finding his voice in New Orleans where he met Chuck Bergeron and started a life-long musical partnership. They both moved to New York City right around the same time to record together on a number of successful albums by other artists, always maintaining a yin-yang chemistry that works so well. So many highlights here but the 10-minute “Premonition” stands out as does “45-Pound Hound” with exceptional trumpeter Brian Lynch.”
-Mike Greenblatt for GOLDMINE: The Music Collector’s Magazine
The concept of a large, tightly-knit big band in a recording studio, on a concert or jazz club stage may just be a plug-in memory in today’s environment. Fortunately there is the fifteenth anniversary recording of The South Florida Jazz Orchestra directed by bassist/bandleader Chuck Bergeron entitled Cheap Thrills: The Music Of Rick Margitza, to remind us what a disciplined inventive big band sounds like.
With the exception of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” all the other compositions are from the pen of tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza, who has an impressive history with big bands. Starting with Maynard Ferguson to an extended period with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, plus a twenty-year sojourn in Paris, each was part of a journey that would eventually lead to this recording.
The project begins with the title track “Cheap Thrills” which is not even remotely close to a similarly named party tune from the Australian singer/songwriter Sia. The opening sequence has an intimate-leaning exploratory frame which ultimately leads to guitarist John Hart‘s solo excursion. His quick-fingered single note style is filled with fluid reflection.
The producers of this session are the highly regarded trombonist John Fedchock and the afore-mentioned Rick Margitza. They brought together many musicians from the South Florida jazz community as well as several of Bergeron’s co-faculty members at the University of Miami. Furthermore there were a couple of Grammy-winning trumpeters, namely Brian Lynch and John Daversa, embedded in the band.
As is frequently the case when two individuals who have a history together reunite to play music, they fall back on familiar material. Such is the case here with “Widow’s Walk,” “Brace Yourself” and “Walls.” However, the pieces are not connected thematically, harmonically or rhythmically. Nevertheless the compositions are filled with chromatic colour flows, reflective lines, and exemplary taste.
Finally, there are three very long-form numbers (close to ten minutes each) including “45 Pound Hound,” “Premonition” and “Embraceable You.” The most interesting and elaborate may be the middle composition, which was completed in a single unbroken take and features the pianist Martin Bejerano. The arrangement is restlessly creative and filled with a compact tangle of texture. A reminder that excellence is compelling.
-Pierre Giroux for All About Jazz
South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills-The Music of Rick Margitza
Bassist and band leader Chuck Bergeron takes tunes penned by Miles Davis alumnus and saxist Rick Margitza and delivers them with an all star team that includes trumpeters John Daversa and Brian Lynch. Margitza brings some nice soling of his own, riding the pulse with guitarist John Hart on “Cheap Thrills” and weaving through the drama with extra percussion on “Widow’s Walk”. The orchestra displays its funky soul for Greg Gisbert’s trumpet on ”Walls” while Lynch rides the backbeat along with the tenor titan on “ 45 Pound Hound”. The charts get tropical on “Brace Yourself” and richly impressionistic for a nice read of “Embraceable You”. Nice winds blowing off the Gulf of Mexico.
-George Harris for JazzWeekly
Economics was the main reason the big bands died off in the 1940s and cost is the reason large jazz bands seldom venture out on tour. This hasn’t prevented jazz musicians from continuing to explore the orchestral possibilities of large ensembles, usually in stand-alone concerts or recording studios.
A recent example, the South Florida Jazz Orchestra, brings nearly 30 musicians together in elaborate setting of compositions by Rick Margitza. A saxophonist with a distinguished sideman career, Margitza worked alongside Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and others as well as enjoying a long relationship under his own name with Blue Note Records. The music was chosen in polished arrangements by bassist-band leader Chuck Bergeron, an instructor at the University of Miami. Most of the players were recruited from—as the band’s name says—southern Florida, but heard among them is Milwaukee expat trumpeter Brian Lynch.